Subject: AFP: Double blow for Timor rights efforts

Double blow for Timor rights efforts

JAKARTA, Dec 23 (AFP) - Efforts to bring to justice those behind the violence in East Timor received a double blow this week with the former armed forces chief rebuffing a domestic inquiry and the government again rejecting an international tribunal.

General Wiranto, the former armed forces chief, failed to appear on Wednesday before the Commission of Investigation into Rights Abuses in East Timor, formed by the National Commission on Human Rights.

Wiranto, now coordinating minister for political security affairs, is one of six senior army officers summoned by the commission investigating rights abuses during the orgy of violence by troops and army-backed pro-Jakarta militias that followed East Timor's August 30 vote for independence.

Adnan Buyung Nasution, chief lawyer for the generals, said Wiranto was ready to appear before the commission but at a later date. "My clients and I will always be ready to fulfill (the) summons anytime," he said.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, meanwhile, again ruled out cooperation with a UN-backed probe, saying Jakarta is capable of investigating the violence which left hundreds dead, hundreds of thousands homeless and the former Portuguese colony in ruins.

Wahid said Wednesday any trial of Indonesian generals over the post-ballot violence in East Timor should be done in Indonesia because "it is related to the sovereignty of the nation."

A UN investigative team that visited East Timor last month is due to hand over the results of its fact-finding mission to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan before December 31.

Annan, on the basis of the report, will decide whether to recommend the creation of an international war crimes tribunal for East Timor.

The document, according to diplomats familiar with the dossier, is a stinging indictment of the Indonesian armed forces and recommends that an international trial be held if the authorities here fail to organize one of their own.

Several members of the domestic commission have said publicly that they have come up with "indications and proof" of the involvement of the army in massacres and destruction in East Timor.

The statements have been met with a furious reaction from the army with one general, Djaja Suparman, the commander of strategic forces, saying his troops would react angrily if their leaders were "humiliated."

The commission, which enjoys the support of President Wahid and counts several leading Indonesian human rights campaigners among its members, has nevertheless forged ahead with its investigation.

In a recent editorial, The Jakarta Post noted the difficulties facing the commission but said it must stand its ground.

"Considering that all previous major investigations involving power abuses in this country met the same fate, these outcomes do not come as any suprise," the newspaper said.

"Given the international dimensions of the inquiry into the violence in East Timor however, one wonders whether the nation can afford to continue pussyfooting around on the issue, without risking another international outcry."

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